Not every ride is perfect

80+F on Easter?  In CT? That is definitely horse riding weather. After doing a few small projects around the farm this morning, the family went on an afternoon trail ride from home.  We only rode for about 5 miles in 1:20, but there were some important lessons learned.

Amanda is building her confidence and endurance in the saddle on the trails.  She did the whole ride today without any leadline assistance, including 4 small water crossings which are usually a challenge for her on Huey.  She didn’t have any problem handling the trotting.

Vicki rode Duchess.  This is only her second time out on the trails with Duchess and they are making progress.  Today she rode in a bitless bridle and that definitely helped.  It’s definitely different having a mare back in the herd.  Duchess isn’t completely comfortable with all the boys yet and she will threaten to kick or bite any horse that enters her space.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of motorcycles out today as well and in the first encounter, Huey ended up too close and Duchess kicked him, hitting Amanda’s foot.  It didn’t actually hurt Amanda, just scared her.  That also rattled Vicki a little.  Later in the ride, Duchess threatened to kick Dakota when he rode up too close on her butt and it made Vicki really upset.  She decided to get off and walk for a while (about a half mile) and then mounted back up when she had calmed down.  While it may not seem like much, it was an important lesson for Vicki about backing off when her emotions run too high and calming down to handle the situation.

Overall, the ride was a success.  No one got thrown.  No one got hurt.

When we got back home, Vicki stayed on Duchess and joined Mojo and I in the front pasture for a little jumping.  This was the first time Vicki has gotten to taken Duchess over anything other than ground poles.  We didn’t work too long and we kept everything low, but they did very well together.  Vicki has learned to control her canter speed and in the bitless bridle, they seem to be getting along better.  I didn’t have much opportunity to take pictures because I was jumping Mojo (who was a rock star!) but I did shoot a short video clip of Vicki trying a simple approach at the canter.  Despite the challenges on the trail, after over 2 hours of saddle time, she was all smiles as we headed in to the barn.

Meet Duchess!

This afternoon, we brought home our newest acquisition, Dutch Treat, aka Duchess.  Duchess is believed to be a Welsh/POA (Pony of the Americas) cross.  She is about 14hh, strawberry roan color and will be 9 years old in May.  We got Duchess specifically for Vicki.  While Devil isn’t going anywhere, Vicki really could use a slightly larger mount and Amanda is planning to do some sharing of Devil this year.

Now, I know at least a few of our closer horse friends are thinking, “they don’t get mares!”  It’s true, we broke our rules and got another mare.  It’s not that we haven’t ever had a mare that we liked, it just creates complications in the herd.  This time around, we decided it was worth the hassle to add a mare to the herd of 6 geldings.

We acquired Duchess from a young woman who started her and used her in a lesson program.  Duchess has experience on the rated hunter/jumper show circuit, but has been out of work for about 2 years while out on a lease that didn’t use her.  She doesn’t have any health issues, just needs to get back into work.  Vicki says “riding Duchess is like riding Devil, but a mare”.  We all know Vicki will ride anything, but Anna and I think they are a really good match.  There was one other part of her background that sealed the deal.  Duchess is a jumper.  Vicki has acknowledged that it will take lessons and hard work for Vicki to be ready to jump anywhere near what Duchess has done in the past, but I’ll just share these 2 photos of Duchess jumping courses a couple of years ago.

The snow is melting and spring has arrived, so it’s time to get the ponies back in shape and get ready for the show season.  Stay tuned to follow the progress of Vicki and Duchess as a team!

It’s all Run and Games

This morning I (Rob) did my 5th half marathon at the Colchester half (all 5 have been there).  In very uncharacteristic weather, it was 60F when we started at 10:00.  I completed the 13.1 miles and 881′ of elevation in 1:58 (9:00 min/mile pace).  Nothing like burning 1800 calories before lunch.

Just finished the Colchester Half Marathon

After a quick shower and bite to eat, I met Anna and the kids an hour and a half after I finished the race.   They had a trailer load of horses and it was time for Pony Club mounted games practice.  I rode Mojo, Anna rode Dakota, and Amanda rode Huey for the first session.  Then Alex rode Dakota and Vicki rode Devil.  Everyone had a great time, but if this weather continues we will need to body clip some ponies! By the time we got home and unloaded the trailer, everyone was ready for some dinner and a movie.

 

A slushy ride in the woods

It’s been a while since we posted.  Angel (aka Jellybean) didn’t end up staying with us.  She had too much anxiety and couldn’t handle being away from Devil, so we are back to our 6 gelding herd.  Of course, we finally got a bunch of snow in Feb.  We went from nothing to about 16″ on the ground in a matter of a few days.  Since then, we have been participating in mounted games practices on weekends, but no really riding much at home.

Today, it was in the mid-50s and the snow was melting away.  Anna has been a little under the weather and Alex bumped his head sledding in the woods, so I went on a short ride with the girls.  While the temperature was great, I hate riding in the slush.  It’s pretty, but I don’t like the horses sliding on ice you can’t see.  It was a short ride, but good to get out.

A surprise about Angel

Yesterday, we introduced Angel.  Upon reading the blog about her, one of my Facebook friends recognized her as a foal that she bred and sold as a weanling.  It turns out Angel is a registered Shetland born in 2008 named Isherwood Magical Enchantress.  She was sold with 2 other ponies, one of who she continued to live with until she came to us yesterday.  After being sold, it isn’t clear if she changed hands again, but she ended up in a neglect situation and was rescued as at about the age of 18 months.  She went as a foster (with her friend Buttercup) to the family who ended up adopting her and kept her until now.

So far, she is absolutely glued to Devil and gets nervous whenever he isn’t with her.  We will introduce another friend from the herd in the next few days. This morning she spent a little time lunging.  She has some amazing front leg action.

Introducing “Angel in Hiding”

Angel (formerly known as Jelly Bean) is the newest addition to the farm.  She is an 8yo, 12.3hh pinto pony.  While we were not really in the market for another mount in that size range, this was a little too perfect to pass up.  You see, all of Angel’s measurements are within 2cm of Devil’s, which will make them a fabulous matched pair for driving.  The pair will be shown as “Devil in Disguise” and “Angel in Hiding”.

Angel has been a family pet for the past 5 years and is very green (read not saddle broken).  While saddle training will likely occur, we really got her to be a driving pony.  Here are some pictures of her in turn out with Devil minutes after arriving.  Even though she had not trailered but 1 time in the past 5 years, we had her loaded in only a few minutes.  She will be a fun training project for this year.

 

 

Fresh snow! More sleigh rides!

We got a little snow on Thursday night and then a good dump yesterday.  After a late breakfast this morning, we had a solid 9+” of fresh powdery snow on the farm.  After the driveway was cleared and the horses were fed, we hitched up Huey to his Kingston Saddlery sleigh to cut some paths in the front pasture.  Everyone took a turn with the reins except Amanda, but she did get to ride until she was frozen.

The new addition for today’s session were sets of bells hanging off either side of the saddle and we got our side check in.  Huey didn’t care about the bells.  While we don’t usually need a side check, it keeps him from dropping his head too low (probably a bigger problem during grass season).  Not bad for his 3rd time hitched.

 

 

Dashing through the snow

Last night we got 3″ of snow.   The kids were excited to switch the wheels on our Kingston Saddlery cart to the sleigh runners.  Unfortunately, the snow switched to rain and it is warming up tonight, so the snow won’t be around for long.  However, we did get the chance to do a little “dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh”.  We did some loops around the house and through the front yard of our neighbors.  We look forward to more snow through the winter.

We also made a short video of Alex driving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbLSnzp3PdE  

Dakota returns

A few months ago, Dakota left to become an occasional trail pony.  While not every horse that comes to our farm is a lifetime horse (or pony), it was clear in the weeks and months after Dakota left, that both Anna and Alex really missed him and I had rushed the decision to move him on.  This week, we got the news that the girl who had Dakota had a fall and was scared to ride.  Time hadn’t helped the issue and the family was considering passing Dakota along to some other friends, but wanted to check with us first.   Their was no hesitation.  Anna and Alex picked up Dakota on Friday.  We are currently thinking we will keep Dakota as a trail pony and not stress this arthritic issues by doing arena work.  Maybe he will ride in a LD endurance event, but I don’t see 50 mile rides in his future.

This afternoon, I rode Mojo, Vicki rode Teddy, and Anna rode Dakota for a very short route.  Alex and Amanda decided it was too cold to ride since it was in the upper 20s. I was testing a saddle (that didn’t work out), so about 30 minutes was plenty of ride time. Anna enjoyed the reunion (and I think prefers his calm demeanor over the Arabs that Vicki and I prefer).  Welcome home Dakota!

Experiencing the family farm lifestyle from years past.